3 of the Best Ways to Balance Your Hormones (for Men and Women)
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Nicole Avena
What helps regulate metabolism, appetite, development, growth, reproduction, cognition, mood, sleep, body temperature maintenance, and more?
Hormones are the chemical messengers of the endocrine system, which is made up of eight major glands – the pituitary gland, pineal gland, thymus, thyroid, adrenal glands, pancreas, testes, and ovaries.
These glands release hormones into the bloodstream, and the hormones then deliver their messages by locking into the cells of a particular tissue or organ. They control most of the processes that happen in your body.
Hormones also are interconnected; what happens with one hormone may affect another.
Types of Hormones
The human body produces hundreds of hormones. Here are three common hormones and how they affect both men and women:
Estrogen is one of the primary hormones involved in a woman’s menstrual cycle. When estrogen levels are healthy and balanced, it helps optimize neurotransmitter production and brain function so you feel good all month long. When estrogen levels are out of balance, it can cause problems.
Too much estrogen in relation to progesterone can lead to a condition called estrogen dominance. This causes the gentle, monthly hormonal rise and fall to turn into a series of intense spikes and dramatic drop-offs, which can disrupt important brain processes and make you moody and irritable.
Too little estrogen can lead to feelings of confusion and anxiousness. The loss of estrogen also can hinder critical thinking, short-term memory, and other cognitive functions. These problems can worsen during perimenopause when estrogen levels can fluctuate wildly, and during menopause when the hormone drops and remains low.
The body’s production of estrogen and progesterone, two hormones synthesized by the ovaries, can vary dramatically during menopause. These hormonal shifts are thought to be the cause of some unpleasant symptoms, which include (but are not limited to) hot flashes, mood swings, sleep problems, and vaginal changes – dryness and thinning of the walls. Also, postmenopausal women are at greater risk for bone loss and heart health issues.
Estrogen imbalances can negatively impact activity in the hippocampus, which is associated with mood and memory.
In addition to estrogen, progesterone is the other major hormone in a woman’s monthly cycle.
When progesterone is in balance with estrogen, it promotes calm and restful sleep. But when they’re imbalanced, or when the relaxation hormone drops too dramatically, calmness can give way to irritability, mood issues, sleepless nights, and mental fog. When progesterone and estrogen drop before menstruation begins, some women experience mood instability.
Some common symptoms of low progesterone are:
- Mood issues
- Loss of bone mineral density
- Sleep problems
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Postpartum low mood
- Premenstrual headaches
Low levels of progesterone, often seen in women during perimenopause and menopause, are associated with poor sleep. This is often attributed to the hot flashes and night sweats commonly experienced during this time of a woman’s life.
Progesterone issues also can affect production of the neurotransmitter GABA.
Testosterone is a vital hormone that’s important for male development. It’s responsible for the deepening of the voice, the growth of facial hair, and many other features typically associated with maleness.
Besides being an androgenic (masculinizing hormone), testosterone is an anabolic (tissue-building hormone) across the gender spectrum. Testosterone also plays a role in the production of red blood cells and the regulation of bone mass, muscle mass, and fat distribution.
Though men have more testosterone than women, women produce and need testosterone too (just as men have some estrogen), just in smaller amounts. In both men and women, testosterone helps protect the nervous system and helps ward off low mood and serious cognitive and memory issues.
Testosterone is the primary hormone responsible for libido in men, and likely helps maintain libido in women too.
Normally, endocrine glands produce the precise amount of each hormone needed for your body’s various functions. Genetics and medical conditions can affect this delicate hormonal balance, but lifestyle factors can too.
In the modern world, you may be exposed to many hormone-disrupting chemicals every day. Also, your body may be in a continual stress response due to the fast pace of living. Feelings of stress and anxiousness may lead to sleep issues. The standard American diet offers too much unhealthy fat, sugar, and refined carbohydrates, that can lead to weight gain. All these factors (and more) can throw off your hormones.
It’s no surprise then, that medical researchers are taking note of the increasing prevalence of hormonal imbalances. According to a survey of 2,000 American women ages 30 to 60, nearly half of them experienced the symptoms of a hormone imbalance.
When hormones are healthy, you tend to feel vibrant and energetic. When hormones are imbalanced, you’re likely to feel less than optimal. This can change the way you think, feel, and act.
There are many potential causes of hormonal imbalances in both men and women. The most common causes are diet, stress, environment, age, and lifestyle.
Women are more likely to experience imbalances in estrogen, progesterone, and thyroid. In men, low testosterone levels are common. However, both women and men can have imbalances in other hormones that affect the brain, especially as they age.
3 of the Best Ways to Balance Your Hormones for Men and Women!
Keep Your Age in Mind
Men and women have different hormonal shifts as they grow older.
Women experience the most dramatic hormonal shift with menopause. At around age 50, women stop menstruating and their ovaries stop producing the hormone estrogen. As a result, women can experience a number of symptoms, including hot flashes, fatigue, vaginal dryness, and reduced libido.
Low levels of estrogen and other changes related to aging (such as weight gain) can raise a woman’s risk of heart health issues, cerebrovascular problems, and bone mineral density loss. Low estrogen also may affect cognitive decline later in life.
For men, aging brings on a gradual decline in testosterone levels that happens slowly over many years. Some estimate the decline to be about 1% each year after age 30. This doesn’t bring on as sudden a change for men as it does for women, but lower testosterone levels can lead to poor erectile function, reduced libido, and even changes in sleep patterns.
If men or women are experiencing symptoms associated with low estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone, they can get their levels checked with a simple blood test. It’s advised to seek natural ways to boost low hormone levels with your healthcare provider. Also, be sure to discuss the benefits and risks of hormone replacement therapy.
Get Consistent Exercise
Physical exercise is beneficial for overall health and is a great way to balance your hormones. One benefit is that it helps to reduce insulin levels and increase insulin sensitivity. This is important for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels in the body.
Being physically active can help increase levels of muscle-maintaining hormones. It also naturally boosts feel-good hormones in the brain, which can produce a natural high.
What you eat can have a major impact on hormonal balance.
Fructose (sugar) can increase insulin levels and promote insulin resistance, particularly in overweight people or those with blood sugar issues. It’s strongly recommended to limit your intake of sugar, as well as refined carbohydrates and alcohol, since they have a similar affect.
Instead, enjoy complex carbohydrates (whole foods like fruits and vegetables). They offer great nutrition and are high in fiber, which helps to support healthy blood sugar and insulin balance.
Healthy fats – like avocados, eggs, nuts and seeds, and salmon – are important too. Avoid trans fats but enjoy omega-3 and monosaturated fats instead. They help to promote satiety and healthy blood sugar levels.
Also, make sure you get adequate amounts of protein. Eating protein can decrease levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and stimulate the production of hormones that help you feel full. Aim for a minimum of 20 – 30 grams of protein per meal.
Balance Your Hormones
Implementing the above tips may help support the numerous hormones in your brain and body.
There are many potential causes of hormonal imbalances in men and women. The most common causes are diet, stress, environment, age, and lifestyle.
If you’re concerned about your hormones, be sure to consult your doctor and get your hormone levels checked. Since some imbalances can be life-threatening, hormone health should be taken seriously.
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